• The Experts

Focus On These Key Facilitation Tips To Avoid Failure


Good facilitators do a respectable job at both planning and executing their sessions, and normally excel at one or the other. Keeping the basic facilitation roles and responsibilities in mind allows the facilitator to focus during sessions and to improve in key areas between assignments. Focusing on three troubleshooting skills also helps separate the good from the average facilitator.


Basic Facilitation Roles and Responsibilities

Facilitation has many definitions. The industry-leading definition, and the operable definition used throughout this paper, is "a facilitated session is a structured meeting in which the meeting leader (the facilitator) guides the participants through a series of predefined steps to arrive at a result that is created, understood, and accepted by all participants.

1. Prepare in advance - “who, what, when, why, where and “how”

2. Plan and distribute the written agenda

3. Define objectives at the beginning of the event

4. Establish expectations

5. Guide the group in presenting and sharing information

6. Provide closure and reiterate action items


Basic Troubleshooting

There are three areas of troubleshooting skills that are common to all good facilitators. Good facilitators are respectable in all three areas. Great facilitators excel in all three subgroups.


Staying On-Task and On-Time. Staying on-task and on-time include:

· Remind the group of the keep-focused expectation

· Do not be afraid to directly re-focus the group on a particular agenda item

· Try to close each item or set it aside in a “parking lot” for consideration later

· Let the group decide on tradeoffs between staying on-task or on-time when issues arise


Dealing with unproductive behavior. Facilitators understand that some form of unproductive behavior during a session is the norm and not the exception. Some tips for dealing with unproductive behavior include:

· Use gentle and appropriate humor for redirection

· Restate the ground rules directly

· Direct questions to the individual for clarification

· Seek help from the group

· Address the issue at a break or offline


Stimulating Productive Inquiry, especially related to subject matter experts (SMEs). Stimulating productive inquiry is truly both a function of planning and execution. It also requires practice and experience working in different situations. Finding the balance between SMEs that either dominate or retreat from engagement is important for discussion to be productive.

· Use probing questions

· Invite the experts to speak up

· Call on individuals in the group

· Invite debate